Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Author Linda Sue Park wrote this relevant and compelling novel as “an attempt at a painful reconciliation.” As a child, she loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, but she grew increasingly uncomfortable with the way members of the First Nations were depicted and regarded in that narrative. As a Korean-American child, she knew what discrimination felt like.

Reminiscent of the setting and characters of the Little House books, Prairie Lotus relates the story of Hanna Edmunds, the 14-year-old daughter of a white father and Chinese mother, who has died. In 1880, Hanna and her father arrive in Dakota Territory after having left their home in California, traveling from place to place, each time longing to set up a home, but always being driven out by discrimination because of Hanna’s ancestry.

Hanna dreams of graduating from school in honor of her deceased mother, becoming a seamstress of women’s dresses, and finding a friend. Hers has been a lonely life. As Hanna strives to attain her goals, she confronts racism once again. But she also encounters adults who are fair and kind and meets young people who like and respect her. Spunky and creative, resilient and willing to ask others for help, Hanna attains her goals, even as she bears scars from ill treatment.

In an author’s note, Linda Sue Park writes, “The racism that Hanna confronts is largely autobiographical: I have faced almost exactly the same incidents of racism depicted in the book. Whether outright hostility from strangers or thoughtless microaggressions from closer to home, such encounters are frequent, even daily, occurrences for me and almost every black or brown person I know. Racism is, however, not a series of incidents. Rather, the incidents are evidence of deeply ingrained states of personal bias and institutional injustice.” Recommended for ages 12 and older. (Clarion Books)

About the Author

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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